Creating Characters
Characters: Creating Characters
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Defining characters by their lifestyle

James Bond's lifestyle is a checklist for the bored roué. The stories he is involved in are simply fantasy extensions of a real life person. To describe him as a charming, bored, cynical hitman puts him the category of many men with social assets but no meaning in their life. This in turn makes minor things important to him. His taste in drinks, dress, cars, and the like shows an inward looking personality related to his own satisfaction. The detailed description of these in the stories are fascinating to the reader because it offers an insight into his personality.

An interesting aspect of James Bond is why ladies like him. The ladies he meets are for the most part living a life style complementary to his own. They have rich meaningless lives where glamour is a substitute for purpose. If he was poor he would not meet such ladies, nor would he meet them if his job were more meaningful to himself. James Bond is an example where a character is attracted to a lifestyle, and in turn helps to define that lifestyle. It is this type of interaction that creates lifestyle patterns which in turn attracts others suited to it. You can define your characters partly by defining their lifestyles.


Describe the lifestyle of:

Mickey Mouse - Tom and Jerry - Cinderella
King Arthur of Camelot - Robin Hood - Winnie-the-Pooh


What do we know about Mickey Mouse? His job varies from story to story, but they all suggest he is a middle class professional of sorts. A conservative White Anglo-Saxon Protestant in attitude, he is the modest hero who deals with problems that are usually of someone else's making (contrast with Donald Duck). He has three nephews, so we guess he has a brother or sister. He has Minnie Mouse as a faithful girlfriend and Pluto his dog. He has his own house and car. He has lots of friends, and in general represents a popular image. We can imagine him playing golf, but less likely to be playing football.

It would be difficult to imagine him having an aggressive role such as a soldier, but he could be an explorer. He is unlikely to be a policeman, but he could be a detective. He would never be a criminal. Nor could he easily be a street cleaner. He doesn't seem academic either so a doctor or teacher's role would not suit him. He fits easily into the role of the practical man who builds his own house, fixes his own car, and can usually deal with the situation in hand. Given that sort of background it would not be too difficult to design suitable stories for him. Winnie-the-Pooh's lifestyle is essentially eating, sleeping, and filling in the day in some not-too-energetic way. To this extent he is a child or a pet. He doesn't move far from home, and assumes that life is safe and simple.

Cinderella's lifestyle is also her story, and the basis of the 'Rags to Riches' stories. The fact that she has no lifestyle at home gets our sympathy because we automatically assume that she is entitled to one. Meeting the prince is great because it changes her lifestyle. The fact that he loves her is an added advantage. We would be just as pleased with the ending if she had found a pot of gold and moved out of her stepmother's house.


Defining characters through their work

A person's job gives them some indication of their character. The job itself carries certain implied values. What sort of person do you think would do the following jobs?

Bank manager, policeman, second hand car dealer, clown, waitress, soldier, computer programmer, rock musician, typewriter mechanic, doctor, stripper, dustman, commercial artist, antique dealer, potter, research scientist, MP, spy, baby minder, ship's cook, train driver, abattoir labourer, gigolo, diver, social worker, jockey, gambler, president, publisher, astronaut, undertaker, hangman, ballet dancer.


Briefly describe a character to fit ten of the above roles.


A point to consider is that apart from dress, it is common for trades and professions to cultivate certain mannerisms, phrases, attitudes, and even walks. Also, certain types of physique go with some jobs. Policemen and labourers are likely to be bigger built than jockeys are. Rock musicians would probably have different hairstyles to bank managers.

They all lend themselves to cliché representations but few in real life would fit the cliché image. The cliché is rather looking at the nature of the job more than the nature of the person. We would assume an undertaker to look serious, and typically tall, skinny, old, and sombre. A scientist a bit oddball, thick glasses, white coat. A gambler would be rakish, charming, and cynical. It is not that these people actually look like these cliché types, but that these elements are closely associated with the jobs they have, and so seem to embody the qualities we are seeking for that character.

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